Success of trial spells stand-alone bus service

A Queenstown bus trial between the Otago Regional Council (ORC) and Connectabus, which has been going for the past 32 months, has been hailed a success, with support now meaning the bus service provider can now operate on a stand-alone basis.

The trial was established with significant investment by ORC, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), Connectabus, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC). ORC finance and corporate committee chairman Duncan Butcher said the project was in response to population growth projections and was designed to provide improved and reliable commuter services, which would become commercially viable and therefore permanent within the project timeframe.

''With the co-operation and expertise of the people at Connectabus and the support of the community, we've achieved that.

''People now need to understand that this service is running purely on a commercial basis and its ongoing viability will depend on their continued support,'' Mr Butcher said.

Connectabus managing director Ewen McCammon said he was delighted to be able to offer unsubsidised services on all routes established during the trial - Kelvin Heights, Arthurs Point, Quail Rise and Lake Hayes Estate, along with the original routes to Frankton, Fernhill/Sunshine Bay and Arrowtown.

''We've used the subsidy to establish routes and we couldn't have done it without that help.

''Arthurs Point runs have been offered on a purely commercial basis for the past four months and that will now extend to all routes.

''When we consider where this service has come from and how it's grown in the past five years, we're pretty pleased with what we've achieved.''

The project also included the development of an electronic ticketing `Go Card' system that substantially reduced the cost of travel for regular commuters.

''We've set this up in consultation with local businesses and people who travel regularly.

''If people use the buses as a taxi service, it will cost more, but if they buy into it as their primary form of transport then it becomes very cheap,'' Mr McCammon said.

Commuters were advised to consult new timetables which would be widely distributed over the next few weeks. The alterations would come into effect from March 1. All areas would retain bus services, undiminished during commuter hours - early and late in the day - but with some reductions on some runs during the middle of the day.

Mr McCammon said the company would introduce more services if there was demand.

''We are very sensitive to the community and its transport needs and are a small, responsive company willing to work with our customers to provide an awesome service.

''Our bus service is unique. There's no other such commercial system in Australasia running in a town this size. We depend on visitors as well as the support of local commuters to make all of our routes work.''